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“I had thought of that, and I have considered that if I can't appeal to your honour I can trust to your—well, shrewdness we'll call it-net to lose five hundred pounds in prospect, and also make a bitter enemy of a man who is willing to be an extremely useful friend."
“Stop, listen!" said Troy in a whisper. A light pit-pat was audible upon the road just above them. “ By George—'tis she," he continued. “I must go on and moet her.” "She-who?" “ Bathsheba."
“ Bathsheba-out alone at this time o' night!” said Boldwood in amazement, and starting up. “Why must you meet her?
“She was expecting me to-night-and I must now speak to her, and wish her good-bye, according to your wish."
“I don't see the necessity of speaking."
" It can do no harm-and she'll be wandering about looking for me if I don't. You shall hear all I say to her. It will help you in your lovemaking when I am gone."
" Your tone is mocking."
"O no. And remember this, if she does not know what has become of me, she will think more about me than if I tell her flatly I have come to give her up."
“Will you confine your words to that one point ?-Shall I hear every word you say?"
“Every word. Now sit still there, and hold my carpet-bag for me, and mark what you hear.”
The light footstep came closer, halting occasionally, as if the walker listened for a sound. Troy whistled a double note in a soft fluty tone.
“Come to that, is it !” murmured Boldwood, uneasily,
“How late you are," she continued tenderly. “Did you come by the carrier ? I listened and heard his wheels entering the village, but it was some time ago, and I had almost given you up, Frank."
“ I was sure to come," said Frank. “ You knew I should, did you not ? ”
“Well, I thought you would," she said, playfully; "and, Frank, it is so lacky! There's not a soul in my house bat me to-night. I've packed them all off, so nobody on earth will know of your visit to your lady's bower. Liddy wanted to go to her grandfather's to tell him about her holiday, and I said she might stay with them till to-morrow—when you'll be gone again.”
“ Capital," said Troy. “But, dear me, I had better go back for my
bag: you run home whilst I fetch it, and I'll promise to be in your parlour in ten minutes."
“Yes." She turned and tripped up the hill again.
Daring the progress of this dialogue there was a nervous twitching of Boldwood's tightly closed lips, and his face became bathed in a clammy dew. He now started forward towards Troy. Troy turned to him and took up the bag.
“Shall I tell her I have come to give her up and cannot marry her ?” said the soldier, mockingly.
“No, no; wait a minute. I want to say more to you—more to you," said Boldwood, in a hoarse whisper.
“Now," said Troy, “You see my dilemma. Perhaps I am a bad man—the victim of my impulses-led away to do what I ought to leave undone. I can't, however, marry them both. And I have two reasons for choosing Fanny. First, I like her best upon the whole, and second, you make it worth my while.”
At the same instant Boldwood sprang upon him, and held him by the neck. Troy folt Boldwood's grasp slowly tightening. The move was absolutely unexpected.
“A moment,” he gasped. “You are injuring her you love." "
Boldwood loosened his hand, saying, “By Heaven, I've a mind to kill you !"
" And rain her.”
Boldwood groaned. He reluctantly released the soldier, and flung him back against the hedge. “Devil, you torture me!” said he.
Troy rebounded like a ball, and was about to make a dash at the farmer ; but he checked himself, saying lightly
" It is not worth while to measure my strength with you. Indeed it is a barbarous way of settling a quarrel. I shall shortly leave the army because of the same conviction. Now after that revelation of how the land lies with Bathsheba, 'twould be a mistake to kill me, would it not ?"
“ 'Twould be a mistake to kill you," repeated Boldwood, mechanically, with a bowed head.
“Better kill yourself.” “ Far better." “ I'm glad you see it.” " Troy, make her your wife, and don't act upon what I arranged just
The alternative is dreadful, but take Bathsheba ; I give her up. She must love you indeed to sell soul and body to you so utterly as she has done. Wretched woman-deluded woman-you are, Bathsheba ! "
“But about Fanny ?" “ Bathsheba is a woman well to do," continued Boldwood, in nervous
anxiety, "and, Troy, she will make a good wife ; and, indeed, she is worth your hastening on your marriage with her!”
“But she has a will—not to say a temper, and I shall be a mere slave to her. I could do anything with poor Fanny Robin.”
“Troy,” said Boldwood, imploringly, “ I'll do anything for you, only don't desert her ; pray don't desert her, Troy."
“Which, poor Fanny ?”
"No; Bathsheba Everdene. Love her best! Love her tenderly ! How shall I get you to see how advantageous it will be to you to secure her at once ?”
"I don't wish to secure her in any new way.”
Boldwood's arm moved spasmodically towards Troy's person again. He repressed the instinct, and his form drooped as with pain.
Troy went on-
“But I wish you to hasten on this marriage. It will be better for you both. You love each other, and you must let me help you to do it.”
“Why, by settling the five hundred on Bathsheba instead of Fanny to enable you to marry at once. No, she wouldn't have it of me; I'll pay it down to you on the wedding-day."
Troy paused in secret amazement at Boldwood's wild and purblind infatuation. He carelessly said, “ And am I to have anything now ?” “Yes, if you wish to. But I have not much additional
money I did not expect this; but all I have is yours.”
Boldwood, more like a somnambulist than a wakeful man, pulled out the large canvas bag he carried by way of a purse, and searched it.
• I have twenty-one pounds more with me,” he said. “ Two notes and a sovereign. But before I leave you I must have a paper signed —"
“Pay me the money, and we'll go straight to her parlour, and make any arrangement you please to secure my compliance with your wishes. But she must know nothing of this cash business."
“ Nothing, nothing," said Boldwood, hastily. “Here is the sum, and if you'll come to my house we'll write out the agreement for the remainder, and the terms also."
“ First we'll call upon her."
“ “ But why? Come with me to-night, and go with me to-morrow to the surrogate's.”
“But she must be consulted ; at any rate informed.” “Very well; go on."
They went up the hill to Bathsheba's house. When they stood at the entrance, Troy said, “Wait here a moment.” Opening the door, he glided inside, leaving the door ajar.
Boldwood waited. In two minutes a light appeared in the passage. Boldwood then saw that the chain had been fastened across the door. Troy appeared inside, carrying a bedroom candlestick.
“ What, did you think I should break in?” said Boldwood, contemptuously.
“O no; it is merely my humour to secure things. Will you read this a moment ? I'll hold the light.”
Troy handed a folded newspaper through the slit between door and doorpost, and put the candle close. " That's the paragraph," he said, placing his finger on a line.
Boldwood looked and read
“On the 17th inst., at St. Ambrose's Church, Bath, by the Rev. G. Mincing, B.A., Francis Troy, only son of the late Edward Troy, Esq., M.D., of Weatherbury, and sergeant 11th Dragoon Guards, to Bathsheba, only surviving daughter of the late Mr. John Everdeno, of Casterbridge."
“This may be called Fort meeting Feeble, hey, Boldwood ?" said Troy. A low gurgle of derisive laughter followed the words.
The paper fell from Boldwood's hand. Troy continued-
· Fifty pounds to marry Fanny. Good. Twenty-one pounds not to marry Fanny, but Bathsheba. Good.
Good. Finale : already Bathsheba's husband. Now Boldwood, yours is the ridiculous fate which always attends interference between a man and his wife. And another word. Bad as I am, I am not such a villain as to make the marriage or misery of any woman a matter of huckster and sale. Fanny has long ago left me. I don't know where she is. I have searched everywhere. Another word yet. You say you love Bathsheba ; yet on the merest apparent evidence you instantly believe in her dishonour. A fig for such love! Now that I've taught you a lesson, take your money back again."
“ I will not; I will not !” said Boldwood, in a hiss.
“Anyhow I won't have it," said Troy, contemptuously. He wrapped the packet of gold in the notes, and threw the whole into the road.
Boldwood shook his clenched fist at him. “ You juggler of Satan! You black hound! But I'll punish you yet; mark me, I'll punish you yet!”
Another peal of laughter. Troy then closed the door, and locked himself in.
Throughout the whole of that night Boldwood's dark form might have been seen walking about the hills and downs of Weatberbury like an unhappy Shade in the Mournful Fields by Acheron.
AT AN UPPER WINDOW.
It was very early the next morning—a time of sun and dew. The confused beginnings of many birds' songs spread into the healthy air, and the wan blue of the heaven was here and there coated with thin webs of
incorporeal cloud which were of no effect in obscuring day. All the lights in the scene were yellow as to colour, and all the shadows were attenuated as to form. The creeping plants about the old manor-house were bowed with rows of heavy water drops, which had upon objects behind them the effect of minute lenses of high magnifying power.
Just before the clock struck five Gabriel Oak and Coggan passed the village cross, and went on together to the fields. They were yet barely in view of their mistress's house, when Oak fancied he saw the opening of a casement in one of the upper windows. The two men were at this moment partially screened by an elder bush, now beginning to be enriched with black bunches of fruit, and they paused before emerging from its shade.
A handsome man leaned idly from the lattice. He looked east and then west, in the manner of one who makes a first morning survey. The man was Sergeant Troy. His red jacket was loosely thrown on, but not buttoned, and he had altogether the relaxed bearing of a soldier taking his ease.
Coggan spoke first, looking quietly at the window. " She has married him!” he said.
Gabriel had previously beheld the sight, and he now stood with his back turned, making no reply.
“I fancied we should know something to-day," continued Coggan. “I heard wheels pass my door just after dark—you were out somewhere." He glanced round upon Gabriel. “Good Heavens above us, Oak, how white your face is; you look like a corpse ! ”
Do I?” said Oak, with a faint smile. “ Lean on the gate : I'll wait a bit.” “ All right, all right."
They stood by the gate awhile, Gabriel listlessly staring at the ground. His mind sped into the future, and saw there enacted in years of leisure the scenes of repentance that would ensue from this work of haste. That they were married he had instantly decided. Why had it been so mysteriously managed ? It was not at all Bathsheba's way of doing things. With all her faults, she was candour itself. Could she have been entrapped ? The union was not only an unutterable grief to him: it amazed him, notwithstanding that he had passed the preceding week in a suspicion that such might be the issue of Troy's meeting her away from home. Her quiet return with Liddy had to some extent dispersed the dread. Just as that imperceptible motion which appears like stillness is infinitely divided in its properties from stillness itself, so had struggling hopes against the imagined deed differentiated it entirely from the thing actually done.
In a few minutes they moved on again towards the house. The sergeant still looked from the window.
Morning, comrades !” he shouted, in a cheery voice, when they came up.